Monday, March 17, 2008

Okay, I’m Hanging Up Now

Did you see the movie ‘Hanging Up’ with Diane Keaton and Meg Ryan? Ryan’s character has a difficult time getting the phone out of her hand. She feels compelled to answer every ring [often her father who is setting into dementia or Alzheimer’s] and can’t seem to hang up no matter who it is, often her father or one of her sisters. As a result, Ryan is a bad driver. She crashes into a doctor’s car in the parking lot.

Recently, NJ has passed a law making it illegal to use the cell phone while driving. I find it annoying and absurd that people need such a law. I use the phone, any phone, rather sparingly. I do use it in the car while driving, but I’m very mindful of it. I have at times not answered a call because I was on the freeway or such. When I have a passenger, I’ve asked them to go ahead and answer my phone. I do this partly because I don’t trust the driving awareness of those on the road with me and because I do not trust my own driving to that end.

When it comes to driving, many of us think we can do it all while driving…until the time that we couldn’t do it all and then it’s too late. Lately it seems like every week we see a local news story about a car crash and the guilty driver had been drinking or on their cell phone. No phone call I receive is going to be more important than my life nor your life nor any other life.

Last week, my brother had a late flight out to San Diego. He picked up Mom and me and we made our way to having dinner before dropping him off at the airport later. Brother was driving down a street, coming upon a residential road to our right. Picture a T; we were coming across the horizontal bar from left to right, approaching the halfway point. My brother braked hard; traveling from the bottom to the top of the vertical segment of the T, having come to the meeting point, a young lady made a left turn, crossing in front of us. She had not stopped at the turn, not even paused. She was on her oh-so-important phone call on her cell. She didn’t seem to notice that my brother had come within two feet, maybe less, of plowing right into her. She kept on her way.

On a Dr. Phil episode, the subject was teenagers who text-message while driving. Now, one young girl was addicted to tm-ing while driving and she talked about it like it was a game; she was an expert, a professional in tm-ing while driving. They brought on a teenage boy who had been tm-ing while driving, got into an accident and killed the person in the car he crashed into. He was trying to tell the girl to stop before she crashes because the guilt of being responsible for another person's death for an unimportant thing like texting is just...well, it's too much. The girl's reply...she thinks the boy just wasn't as good at texting as she is and that's why he crashed. ABSURD.

I have announced my return to the choir. The director is very good about getting each of us a practice CD with our parts so that we may practice when we can. I wear the CD out; I NEED all the practice I can get! Maybe I shouldn’t have said that; now people are hesitating to come out and hear us sing. Believe me, I’m improving.

I don’t drive much these days [I'm a good driver I think, I just don't like driving], but when I do I make it a point to bring the practice CD along. I try to keep the windows up while I sing along to the CD. I’m sure I look amusing to those who happen to glance my way as I’m trying to open my small mouth as wide as I can to belt out the melody. It takes concentration. I am mindful of where I am driving and of the traffic around me all before I start the CD. My eyes are on the road, my hands are firmly on the steering wheel, my foot in place at the pedals, but it takes concentration to see the deep pothole or the person waiting about to cross the street in the crosswalk or the truck just ahead of me begin to brake.

If singing to a CD can take concentration from the road, so can using a hands-free cell phone system.

If it’s legal to use the cell phone while driving wherever one happens to be, I hope one’s being responsible and careful that nothing distracts from the task of driving. Weigh the costs, think about it. And remember, just because something isn't illegal doesn't mean one should do it.

From my heart, mahalo.